“This is unprecedented in our city. Traditionally, votes are not bought here. They are earned. I don’t blame anyone for getting piles of $500 checks from lobbyists and developers. But if we let them win this time, they will be back, and we might never have an election that developers can’t buy.”
On Friday, Lago, whose donations come from a mix of real estate developers, architects, contractors, accountants, lawyers and unspecified donors, responded.
“I thought it was unfortunate that Mr. Hancock waited to the last moment where I could not at least give some rebuttal to a statement that was rather unprofessional,’’ Lago said. “I’ve never been a developer and my firm BDI Construction does not build and sell apartments or shopping centers or whatever developers do. I’ve been involved in this race for a year and six months …The last thing I would ever do is compromise my values and integrity. If you look at the 2011 election you’ll notice the numbers by [Bill] Kerdyk Jr. were in the $140,000 range and those running for mayor — Jim Cason was close to $100,000 and Don Slesnick had more than $190,000. Brad Rosenblatt had $175,000 and Frank Quesada had about $105,000.
“So when you mention elections being bought, yes, I have raised a lot of money but I have supporters who believe in me and my vision in Coral Gables.”
• On crime:
Ebbert urged residents to form watch groups and pay more attention to their neighbors. “I’ve had two crime watch meetings at my house in the last 10 years. I know my neighbors and I know whether they are out of town or if a package arrives at their house I will take it home with me and e-mail them. We don’t allow newspapers to accumulate at people’s houses. We have a wonderful police force but they can’t be everywhere.”
Hancock stressed a need for more police officers. “Crime is up in the city. They are trying to minimize it by saying it’s just property crimes but I had a vehicle stolen from my house and it was used to assault an officer. A property crime turns into a violent crime pretty fast. We cut back on police that are the community officers that help police public schools here and we did that in the Sandy Hook era. There was a time when Coral Gables was a place where people were afraid to commit a crime. We don’t have that anymore. We need to get that back.”
Lago also noted that he and his wife had been crime victims when air conditioners and a pool pump were stolen from their home on busy San Amaro two years ago. “If you look at crime as a whole, it has fallen by one percent in 2012. In the last five years not one police officer has been removed from the force. I’d put more of the ones we have on the street. We need to spend money making sure there is lighting on our streets. That is a huge deterrent.”
• On revamping Miracle Mile:
Ebbert blasted the parking garages across the street from the Le Jeune Publix and behind the mile’s Miracle Theatre. “There is $16 million set aside now to do Miracle Mile and get it right. The parking lots are a disgrace, poorly lit and dirty. I feel safe on the streets of Coral Gables but I don’t like going into the parking garages. I feel vulnerable if they are not lit well. Those two parking garages need to be taken down and rebuilt and go higher. Parking is vital for Miracle Mile to thrive.”